On August 23, 2021, the FDA approved Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine. The vaccine will be marketed as Comirnaty and is approved for people who are 16 years of age and older. The FDA’s approval will very likely encourage more employers to mandate that its employees receive the vaccine.
Some employers have been reluctant to mandate vaccinations, but researchers believe that the FDA approval will ease some of the concerns both employers and employees have about requiring a vaccine that had previously only been authorized for emergency use.
Employers are not required to mandate that employees receive the vaccine; however, those employers who do not require employees to be vaccinated will still need to comply with current legislation at the federal, state, and local levels, including regular testing for non-vaccinated employees, quarantining employees who are positive or have been advised to quarantine by a medical professional due to being exposed to Covid-19, and offering up to 80 hours of emergency sick leave through September 30, 2021.
Currently, Pfizer is the only Covid-19 vaccine to receive FDA approval. Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine is expected to receive the same approval once Moderna provides adequate information about the manufacturing process, its facilities, and submits to an in-depth inspection by the FDA.
Employers should still require their employees to submit proof of vaccination and keep accurate details including the date of the vaccination, whether both shots have been received, and what proof was provided by the employee (a copy of the vaccination card, the employee’s word, etc.). There have also been recent discussions about a booster shot for those individuals who have already been vaccinated. If—or when—the booster becomes necessary, the same requirements will likely apply.
Finally, regardless of the employer’s decision to mandate vaccination for its employees, the employer still has an obligation to offer reasonable accommodation for those employees who refuse the vaccine due to a medical condition or sincerely-held religious beliefs.
If you have any questions about implementing a vaccine requirement or if you need guidance in addressing a reasonable accommodation for certain employees, please contact Schneiders & Associates, L.L.P. at (805)764-6370.